Muscular control of landing from unexpected falls in man

J Physiol. 1971 Dec;219(3):729-37. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1971.sp009685.


1. It was previously shown that the controlled landing from single steps to the ground is typically brought about by accurately timed motor activity, commencing before the actual landing, and completed before time would permit the participation of a useful stretch reflex response.2. To investigate further the validity of this conclusion, subjects were dropped from an electromagnetic suspension at unexpected moments. Their gastrocnemius electromyographic (e.m.g.) responses and the forces applied to their feet were recorded throughout.3. No useful contribution of a stretch reflex response was detected. Indeed, it was shown that a functionally effective reflex resulting from the mechanical event of landing would occur far too late to contribute to the muscular deceleration of the fall.4. It was also found that a consistent muscular response occurred, commencing 74.2 msec (S.E. of mean = 1.4 msec) after starting the fall, independent of height.5. It is suggested that this response in the leg musculature is a reflex originating in the otolith apparatus. In addition, a possible mechanism for the control of repetitive hopping, and perhaps running, movements, involving the above reflex, is suggested.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Foot / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Locomotion
  • Motor Activity
  • Movement*
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Reflex
  • Sound
  • Time Factors